The fourth inning began with a wave of confusion — and a 15-minute delay — after the Rays were summoned off the field and into the dugout. It turned out that home plate umpire Derryl Cousins had sustained an injury in the second inning when Boston catcher Jason Varitek fouled a 3-and-2 pitch that appeared to strike Cousins hard on the lower part of his mask, near his upper chest. Play continued for another inning with no apparent sign of a problem, but before the fourth inning, the decision was made for Cousins to leave the game. When play resumed, first-base umpire Tim McClelland was behind the plate, with no umpire in leftfield. Minutes later, the announcement was made that Cousins had taken a blow to the chest and was expected to be fine.
Crist makes his pitch
Gov. Charlie Crist showed his usual humble optimism before heading into Tropicana Field for the ceremonial first pitch. "I'm just going to try to get it over the plate," he said. "It's a challenge, you know."
Crist said he had practiced, and it turned out well. He cleared home plate without a bounce before posing for a picture with outfielder Rocco Baldelli, who caught the throw.
"This is going to be a great night, it'll be a great game," Crist said. "I predict they're going to win it tonight and I couldn't be more proud of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg than I am right now.
"During these economic times, this is exactly what we need. It's a great diversion and a great evening."
Cal and Evan
It was an interesting sight: a baseball great from the past chatting with a potential great of the future. As Rays rookie third baseman Evan Longoria waited to take his batting practice cuts, Hall of Famer and TBS analyst Cal Ripken, left, wandered over to say hi and talk shop.
Ripken, baseball's all-time ironman with the Orioles, started his career at shortstop and finished it at third. Longoria began at short and now is a fixture at third. They conversed for nearly 15 minutes, then shook hands.
"I think he's a terrific young man," Ripken said. "Fantastic player. Someone who's so poised and calm. … He just looks like he's comfortable in any baseball situation. He's going to be a terrific player for years to come."
Does Ripken see any of himself in the young star? "I've heard some people say that. I don't know, it's hard to look at another guy and think about yourself," he said. "But he's up there. I think he likes to sit on pitches. He can hit all of them. He's got good power — an excellent third baseman. He's got some good size, too. He's got all the skills."
Kyle Sheldon of Daytona Beach wears a pumpkin with the Tampa Bay logo carved in it.
Plays worth another look
1. Rays fans barely had time to savor their 1-0 lead, courtesy of B.J. Upton's home run in the first inning, when hot-hitting Kevin Youkilis (.409 in the ALCS) stepped to the plate in the second and hammered a 2-and-1 pitch over the centerfield wall to tie it. It marked a continued turnaround of fortunes against Rays starter James Shields for Boston's third baseman. He began the series 0-for-17 against Shields, but went 3-for-4 in Game 1 with a pair of doubles. And his home run continued his newfound mastery of Shields.
2. After the Youkilis homer, J.D. Drew followed with a sharp single to right. When Jason Bay lashed a hard shot down the third-base line, it appeared that a Red Sox rally was on. But Evan Longoria lunged toward the bag to make the stop, pivoted and nailed Bay at second. Akinori Iwamuru's throw to first was too late to double up Bay. Getting the force proved crucial. Mark Kotsay followed with a single to right, but Shields got Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek to fly out and got out of the inning with minimal damage.
3. The Rays started the bottom of the fifth with a single to right by catcher Dioner Navarro. Not known for his speed, it was unlikely that Navarro would attempt a steal. Instead, with shortstop Jason Bartlett at the plate, a hit-and-run seemed like a good possibility. With the count 2-and-2, the hit-and-run call appeared to be on as Navarro broke for second. But the pitch by Josh Beckett was up and in, preventing a swing, and catcher Jason Varitek's throw nailed Navarro easily at second. How costly was it? Bartlett promptly followed with a home run to left to tie the score at 2. But a solo shot instead of a two-run homer for the lead.
Nasty with "Nasty Boy"
Rays fanatic Brian Knobbs, a.k.a. "Nasty Boy," dealt with many rowdy Boston crowds during his long WWF wrestling career. But Knobbs never had a moment like Thursday night in Fenway Park, where he was escorted out of the ballpark in the seventh inning after getting harassed by Red Sox fans. Knobbs said security took him out for his "own safety."
Here's how Knobbs saw it: After cheering loudly following B.J. Upton's homer in the first, a Red Sox fan threw a full 16-ounce beer in his face. Throughout the game, Knobbs said, "they pelted me with stuff the entire time," mostly peanuts. "I was called every name in the book, every derogatory thing you could call a person, and I took it with a smile on my face, and they still escorted me out."
Interestingly, Knobbs said the cops who kicked him out asked him to pose for a picture when they got outside. "And I did it," Knobbs said.
He skipped Hulk Hogan's party Saturday to attend Game 6 at the Trop. His seats? Third base, front row by the Red Sox dugout.
More people, more cops
More police officers worked Tropicana Field on Saturday, but not because of the record ejections at the last two home games of the ALCS, police said. Spokesman Bill Proffitt wouldn't say how many more officers were working because of security concerns. Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies were also pitching in for the first time. He said the modest increase was because of extra fans. To accommodate more fans, the Rays decided to sell seats that had previously been covered by blue tarps. The change made 5,762 more seats available. "We basically have the same plan, we just beef it up a little more for the extra seats, which mean more fans and more cars," Proffitt said.
Eckersley's shot at Trop? Just kidding
TBS analyst Dennis Eckersley appeared to be talking down the Trop during his last telecast from Fenway Park, but the Hall of Fame reliever says he didn't mean it. "I should never have said anything," he said with a smile before the game. "I haven't been here since '98 and things have really changed. It has an exciting feel. I was just trying to be funny — so I said I like to sit in the sun and Tampa Bay's a great place to do that. It's not about the building at all." So should we clarify? "Yes," he said. "Clarify it."
Price is popular with fans
Rookie pitcher David Price is popular with Rays autograph seekers. He often stands on the dugout steps before taking the field, catching baseballs tossed his way, signing them and tossing them back. "We appreciate these fans — they're definitely very, very loud," he said.
And they sound a lot better than the bellowing Boston fans who finally had something to cheer about Thursday night. "It was like a bad dream," he said. "Everybody was rubbing their eyes, waiting to wake up. But this is something this team has experienced all year. Not a tragic loss like that … but we lost seven in a row going straight into the All-Star Game and then we won a ton of series' in a row right after the All-Star break." Now, Price just wants to keep the ride of his young career going.